Mafic

mafic rock

In geology, any igneous rock dominated by the silicates pyroxene, amphibole, olivine, and mica. These minerals are high in magnesium and ferrous iron, and their presence gives mafic rock its characteristic dark colour. It is usually contrasted with felsic rock. Common mafic rocks include basalt and gabbro.

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Division of igneous rocks on the basis of their silicate mineral content, these minerals usually being the most abundant in such rocks. Rocks are described as felsic, intermediate, mafic, and ultramafic, in order of decreasing silica content, and, in general, the gradation from felsic to mafic corresponds to an increase in colour (i.e., light to dark). Due to the erroneous belief that silica present in rock magmas occurred in the form of silicic acid, high- and low-silica rocks were once known as acid and basic rocks, respectively.

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Mafic is an adjective describing a silicate mineral or rock that is rich in magnesium and iron; the term was derived by contracting "magnesium" and "ferric". Most mafic minerals are dark in color and the specific gravity is greater than 3. Common rock-forming mafic minerals include olivine, pyroxene, amphibole, and biotite. Common mafic rocks include basalt and gabbro.

In terms of chemistry, mafic rocks are on the other side of the rock spectrum from the felsic rocks. The term roughly corresponds to the older basic rock class.

Mafic lava, before cooling, has a low viscosity, in comparison to felsic lava, due to the lower silica content in mafic magma. Water and other volatiles can more easily and gradually escape from mafic lava, so eruptions of volcanoes made of mafic lavas are less explosively violent than felsic lava eruptions. Most mafic lava volcanoes are oceanic volcanoes, like Hawaii.

Rock TextureName of Mafic Rock
PegmatiticGabbro pegmatite
Coarse grained (phaneritic)Gabbro
Coarse grained and porphyriticPorphyritic gabbro
Fine grained (aphanitic)Basalt
Fine grained and porphyriticPorphyritic basalt
PyroclasticBasalt tuff or breccia
VesicularVesicular basalt
AmygdaloidalAmygdaloidal basalt
Many small vesiclesScoria
GlassyTachylyte, sideromelane, palagonite

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